‘Petticoat Surgeon:’ The life of Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen

By Shelby Stewart
Staff Writer
In honor of Women’s History Month, at 7 p.m., March 14, Brandon Township Library, 304 South St. will be hosting a presentation, titled ‘Petticoat berthaSurgeon’ exploring the life of Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, an early female student of University of Michigan Medical School.
“She was born on a farm, but at the time of her death, she was the most famous woman doctor in the world,” said Maureen Thalmann, an enthusiastic historian and author of the first biography on Van Hoosen, who will also be giving the presentation.
Born in 1863, Van Hoosen had a successful OBGYN practice in Chicago, started the American Medical Women’s Association, pioneered some surgical medical techniques and was the first woman to head a department in a co-ed medical school. She died in 1952.
“I worked at the historic house museum in Rochester that was her house, the Rochester Hills museum at Van Hoosen farm,” said Thalmann. “When I was there, I was able to read family diaries, letters, get a lot of information on the woman.”
Van Hoosen, who was born during the civil war, made friends with some women who were in medical school while she was an undergrad. The women were taunted and called ‘hen medics’, facing a great deal of sexual discrimination for their choice of study, which was heavily male-dominated at the time. But Van Hoosen found the topics interesting, and wanted to continue studying in the medical field. She knew she would be able to live independently, and be a contributing member of society.
“My PowerPoint presentation stems from the research, I worked at the Van Hoosen farm, the historical library at U of M, anywhere that had an archive of Bertha,” said Thalmann.
The event is free registration is required. In addition, Thalmann will also be giving a presentation of her next project at the Rochester Hills Museum on Fidelia Wooley Gillette, who was an early suffragette and ordained minister on March 15 at 7 p.m. Registration is required for this as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.